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Concentration camp. Internment Camp

by rose-of-java

Contributed by 
rose-of-java
Location of story: 
Java and somewhere in Germany
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A2938179
Contributed on: 
22 August 2004

The corridor was spotless; white tiles right up to the ceiling. That should have been comforting, after all there is nothing more wonderful than a shower, morning, noon and evening, when you live in the tropics.

And yet I could hardly breathe. The floor sloped down until I came to a blind wall. Only one door opening to the left. I had to enter, there was no choice.

In the showerroom there were 3 cubicles. The doors were closed. One hand was visible above one door, skeletal, dead.

You take a lot of things for granted when you are young. Acceptance comes naturally.
There I was, 8 years old by then, in a Japanese internment camp. And night after night I had the same dream. It had to be dreamt. There was no escape.

When we were 'repatriated' to Holland I started to read about the war. Not our war, the German war.

It was a tremendous shock to read about the extermination camps, Treblinka, Dachau.
This was my dream. I had been there.

Years later after a TV documentary I called the help line: "Could they put me through to a historian who could tell me if I might have read about these camps before we ourselves were interned?" After all, war came to the Dutch East Indies in 1942. Perhaps I had seen a story in a paper?
They did put me through to a historian. He thought it was highly unlikely that I should have seen anything in print.

That was the only explanation I could find at the time, that I had read about the Jews being slaughtered and that I had woven this into my dreams. Later I came to accept that somehow I became tuned in to events on the other side of the globe. Petulantly, I felt rather cross to begin with. It was quite enough to be interned by the Japs, without having to experience somebody else's problems. That feeling did not last. The more I read about the methodical massacre, the more I felt privileged that I had been allowed to share the fate of the Jews to some extent.

Initially, I was convinced that the war in Europe must have been far more horrible than our war, for a very peculiar reason.
The war must have been worse, because the Germans looked more recognizably human.

Not that the Japs looked inhuman. They did not look human at all. They meant two things: terror, death.

After the war,seeing a Jap on screen caused an instant physical reaction: vomit.
I could not bear to read about them and read about the German war instead, channelling some of my fury and disgust.
It was easy to visualize the situation, to walk with the victims. My respect and love for the Jewish people grew with each story.
(That respect, sadly, is diminished now because of the new situation following the murder of I. Rabin. And no, this is not anti-semitism. Just a dislike of the powers that be.)

Some twenty years ago I visited a monastery in Greece, on the road between Athens and Delphi. A monk suddenly addressed the group of tourists, "Is there a German among you?" A young man, a student perhaps, said, yes he was. The monk lashed out at him verbally. It appeared that during the war a German had been killed by the resistance and the usual revenge was taken. You find stories like that in France, in Holland. The exchange rate for one dead German was a churchful of people, preferably women and children, herded in. The doors are closed, they are burned alive.

It was a terrifying story, and I could feel for the monk, torn apart by his memories.
Yet, at the same time, there was a first stirring of an unexpected reaction. This young man was not even thought of at the time. He could not help it. Was this fair?

It was only when I read Laurens van der Post, a South African writer who had spent the war in the tropics and who died in England some years ago, that a similar feeling grew about my war.

He talks about these people as if they are human beings, was my first reaction to "A Bar of Shadows" Very puzzling.
But it was the beginning of a healing process.

A few weeks ago, a Japanese interpreter was kidnapped in Irak. The terrorists threatened to behead him. "Oh please, let him be rescued" was my first thought. "Look at that poor sweet face." And then it hit me, this was me talking about someone from Japan...

A final touch of irony. The main character in "A Bar of Shadow" is 'Rottang-Hara'
This is van der Post's name for Mori, the man in charge on Haruku; the man responsible for my father's death.

But that I learnt much later.

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Message 1 - Thought provoking

Posted on: 22 August 2004 by anak-bandung

22/8 - Roos, that was very thought provoking. The imagery of your dream is very strong and quite scary actually that it happened at a time when you were not aware of these things happening at the other side of the world.
I am no psychologist, only use my own common sense, but think that after fear and hate, acceptance and some forgiveness has to occur will one be able to go on without the negative emotions continually eating away within. Only then perhaps would one be able to go on living without the ever-recurring nightmares.
They say: I can forgive but not forget, and that is very true. One should perhaps forgive, if only for one's own sake and peace, but one should NEVER, EVER forget for that would negate everything. It also should be TOLD sothat others learn about it and understand and make it hopefully posble it won't occur again against all hope.
It is not easy, but to perpetuate fear and hate only makes matters worse. We humans have far to go still and seem not to have learned a thing, for all this is still happening elsewhere. But every human being who is touched by it and moved, makes a difference, however small.
If we can look at the generic face of the enemy and not hate unconditionally what we are seeing, we have put a step forward. To be able to look at a single Japanese face or a German or one from any other race that has committed atrocities, especially when that face shows suffering and then to feel compassion for that person instead of hate, must be a great feeling. It would make you start to believe in yourself as well, I think.
To lash out to all members of a race is human and understandable but the young people cannot help it. The sins of the father.... and all that is not helpful for spiritual development. It is good, Roos, you are able to look at a Japanese face now and feel compassion. You probably surprised yourself, but aren't you feeling much better for it deep within?
Keep them coming, girl!
Love from your camp mate, Anak @->--

 

Message 2 - Thought provoking

Posted on: 22 August 2004 by rose-of-java

Dear Anak
We were born after "the war to end all wars" and before "Auschwitz never again" was a phrase on everybody's lips.
And, as you say, we have not learned much. The red sun on a white field frequently displayed at the games in Athens still hurts.
But you are right, the sentence "Look at that poor sweet face" and its impact, was a step forward for me at least. Thanks for the comment! Rose

 

Message 3 - Thought provoking

Posted on: 22 August 2004 by elviraberyl

22nd Aug
My dear Roos,
I have just found your 'thought provoking' article. I had to write before I go to bed. I can't express myself as well as you or Anak. But my feelings are real and I think you have made a great step forward. The fact that you are able to talk about the awful events and yet be able to feel compassion towards, what was once your enemy, shows what humanity YOU have. You have made such strides, which I am sure will be the beginning of peace from the horror.
My love to you
Elvira

 

Message 4 - Thought provoking

Posted on: 22 August 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

It is doubtful that you had read about this horror in 1942. Prior to 1942 thousands of Jews had been murdered in Poland and Estonia, but that was by mass shootings in the open air by Einsatzgruppen, but murder by gassing in concentration camps had not yet started at the time of your dream. Jews were murdered in trucks experimentally, in October 1941, by directing the diesel exhaust gasses of a tank engine into the truck. But this crude method was abandoned as being 'inefficient'.

The "Final Solution of the European Jews" was formulated at Wannsee (the infamous Wannsee Conference) on 20 January 1942.

Gassing by Zyklon B was first tested on Russian PoWs at Auschwitz in the Autumn of 1941. The first mass deportations of Jews arrived in Auschwitz on 26 March 1942, but the gas-chambers and crematoria were not ready yet and the first deportees, 999 Slovak Jewish women, had to be housed in barracks pending their murder at the end of the month. It was from the end of March 1942 that this ghastly business started, the murder of humans by gassing on an industrial scale.

Peter

 

Message 5 - Thought provoking

Posted on: 23 August 2004 by rose-of-java

Dear Elviraberyl
It was a very small step. When I think of history still being rewritten in Japan and of the Japanese government worshipping at the shrine of warcriminals, my blood instantly begins to boil again.
But even the very small step felt good. Thanks for writing. Rose

 

Message 6 - Thought provoking

Posted on: 23 August 2004 by rose-of-java

Dear Peter

Thank you, that seems to clinch it. How good of you to step in and supply the relevant information.

Would you mind answering another question? I read a shocking piece of news somewhere: the Allies knew the location and purpose of some of the later camps through pictures taken during aerial reconnaissance. They had ignored the evidence as irrelevant at the time.

As to the "inefficiency" of the earlier methods and the later perfection of the Final Solution: I think it is the aspect of cold-bloodedness which makes the massacre of the Jews seem worse than the millions of people killed in Russia (3 x more?).

Remind me, who made the Zyklon B? and what happened to the makers after the war? I think I know the answer, but it seems so unbelievable, I should like to have it confirmed.
Thank you very much for being so helpful! Rose

 

Message 7 - Thought provoking

Posted on: 23 August 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Dear Rose

The Allies did learn of the extermination camps, partly from Enigma decrypts and partly from Jewish sources, but the full horror was not fully grasped. It did seem beyond belief.

Personally I think the Allies acted as best they could have done at the height of WW2. But I must stress that this is a personal view and that others differ. My friend Ron Goldstein has the facts on Jewish information passed to the American government and he believes that more could have been done. I shall drop him a line so that he can speak for himself on this point.

As to Zyklon-B, it was so deadly that only a small number of pellets were needed per cannister in the two or three insertion points from the roof of the 'brausebäder' (shower baths). It speaks volumes when you grasp that tons were needed and consumed. Basically, Zyklon-B was amethyst-blue crystals of cyanide which when dropped through the vents formed hydrocyanic, or prussic, acid fumes. Zyklon-B was originally patented by IG Farben as a powerful disinfectant.

However, so much was needed that rights to manufacture the gas crystals were passed to Tesch und Stabenow of Hamburg and Dagesch of Frankfurt am Main, all three supplied tons of the stuff to the extermination camps. A considerable dedicated effort given the state of the war.

Peter

 

Message 8 - Thought provoking

Posted on: 23 August 2004 by Ron Goldstein

Dear Rose/Peter

Thank you both for the points raised and the ensuing discussion.

With ref to:
"the Allies knew the location and purpose of some of the later (concentration) camps through pictures taken during aerial reconnaissance. They had ignored the evidence as irrelevant at the time".

As Peter has intimated, I have my own strong views on this subject, but I have asked my good friend Martin Sugarman to make a reasoned reply.

Martin is Archivist to AJEX (Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women) and is well qualified to offer chapter and verse.

Going off at a tangent, on another thread I noticed we have got back to Bomber Harris 'bashing'.

As one who lived very much through that period (and who lost his brother as part of the price we had to pay for our freedom) I still believe with all my heart that the bombing of Germany was the right thing at the right time and Harris was the right man to do the job.

Ron G.

 

Message 9 - Thought provoking

Posted on: 23 August 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Yes, it saddened me that someone can praise Kesserling, a convicted war-criminal, for his 'soldierly qualities' yet say that Air Chief Marshal Harris, later Marshal of the RAF, 'is dripping in blood'.

I'm surprised, but very pleased, that General Carl 'Tooey' Spaatz doesn't seem to attract the same kind of vilification.

It's a stange world!

Peter

 

Message 10 - Thought provoking

Posted on: 23 August 2004 by rose-of-java

Dear Peter
You are quite right to remind me: the war effort must have been like playing a 3-D chess game. On the whole I still tend to side with your friend: I read it in too many different places (the fact that I suffered partial amnesia after traffic accidents may account for my vagueness about sources). It was mentioned in a Wallenberg biography, and elsewhere.
And it is difficult to comprehend the incomprehensible. After all, this was malice aforethought applied to mass murder. Rose

 

Message 11 - Thought provoking

Posted on: 23 August 2004 by rose-of-java

Dear Ron Goldstein,

Shall I add another dimension? This was my reaction to the dropping of the atombombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (I was 10 years old, and had barely survived being incarcerated by the Japanese, when the bombs were dropped).

"They should not have done that"

Mind you, this reaction came later, when we had been shipped to Holland and realized what an atombomb was.
At the time, of course, the only thing we knew was that we were liberated.
It is still what I feel, especially after reading about the reason for dropping the bomb. (Let's be the first and see what happens)

On the whole, I have a very low opinion of politicians.
I shall look forward to more comments. Thank you! Rose-of-Java

 

Message 12 - Thought provoking

Posted on: 23 August 2004 by ODYSSEY

23 AUg.Dear Rose.I just read the thoughts between you Peter and Ron.
Your last sentence mentioned about politicians:I totally agree.
If they knew about gassing of the Jews-and I read about that too-They are just as guilty as the perpetrators : For convenience sake they closed their eyes.When the big 3 divided Eastern Europe; the politicians are just as guilty. for what happened to millions of people.
And politics and big money still play a dirty role in many governments.

I remember Jews being rounded up in Holland.Could we have done something?The people who did were shot.
People who harbored jewish children were caught and punished and the children were picked up and I'm sure gassed. Thersiën Stadt was the ultimate cynicism.
Later we learned that Americans let German warcriminals escape to S. America and/or were put to work in the US:Werner von Braun was one of them.
Nothing has changed.
The only thing we can do is educating our conscience and act accordingly.

 

Message 13 - Thought provoking

Posted on: 23 August 2004 by ODYSSEY

23 AUg.Dear Rose.I just read the thoughts between you Peter and Ron.
Your last sentence mentioned about politicians:I totally agree.
If they knew about gassing of the Jews-and later I read about that too-They are just as guilty as the perpetrators : For convenience sake they closed their eyes.When the big 3 divided Eastern Europe; the politicians are just as guilty for what happened to millions of people.
And politics and big money still play a dirty role in many governments.

I remember Jews being rounded up in Holland.Could we have done something?The people who did were shot.
People who harbored jewish children were caught and punished and the children were picked up and I'm sure gassed. Thersiën Stadt was the ultimate cynicism.
Later we learned that Americans let German warcriminals escape to S. America and/or were put to work in the US:Werner von Braun was one of them.
Nothing has changed.Money still talks.
The only thing we can do is educating our conscience and act accordingly.Josephine.

 

Message 14 - Thought provoking

Posted on: 24 August 2004 by rose-of-java

24/8
Dear Josephine Amen to the last sentence!
I sense from your letter that you get just as livid as I do about injustice.
Because that is what our fury boils down to, I think. You see so many things going wrong in such a tragic way that it makes you spit blood.
But then I tell myself that this is very unhealthy and that I had better water the plants on the balcony, or do the shopping for my neighbour.
I also agree that it is love of money and power which is behind most atrocities.
The only way out I see, is by tiny acts: raising awareness; not wanting all the latest luxuries, that kind of thing. Only time will tell which side has won. Rose

 

Message 15 - Thought provoking

Posted on: 24 August 2004 by anak-bandung

24/8 It is as the Dutch saying goes 'wilt U niet wat u geschied, doe dat ook de ander niet' or the English equivalent of 'do to others as you would want them to do unto you.' It all boils down to showing by example. However, you have to catch them young. The Jesuits knew that!
Despite all the nasty people around us, I still believe in the goodness of them. Often it is when they get into crowds that conscience flees and brutality rears its ugly head.
Love, Rob/Anak/Tulip1 (help, I am having an identity crisis!) @->--

 

Message 16 - Thought provoking

Posted on: 24 August 2004 by martinsugarman

The best book to read on what the Allies knew and did not do, concerning the Death Camps and the Holocaust of the Jews, is Sir Martin Gilbert's "Auschwitz and the Allies" ; also Prof. Bernard Wasserstein "Britain and the Jews of Europe".

When the Holocaust was formally acknowledged in the famous House of Commons revelations of late (?) 1943, by Eden, and the House stood in silent prayer, the government was lobbied by world Jewry and others to get the Allies to bomb the railway lines leading to Auschwitz. By destroying these and bombing the crematoria, literally hundreds of thousands of lives would have been saved. Evidence? When the Jews themselves blew one of them in 1944, the number of gassings had to stop for weeks until it was considered what to do and had this gone on, the Russians would have found thousands more survvors in Jan 1945 on liberation. The murder of the last million Jews form Hungary took place in the "Summer that Bled"(by Anthony Sampson (?) is because the Allies refused the bombing. Churchill ordered it, Harris was ok about it BUT it was stopped in the Air Ministry somewhere; excuse? getting on with bombing Germany. It only needed one big raid and the lobbyists said better kill some hundreds of prisoners than watch 1 million more die. There is little doubt that anti-Semitism played a massive role here ; Lord Moyne in Egypt, when faced with the prospect of the "thousand trucks for 1 million Jews" scheme of Eichmann, in the early summer of '44 commented, "What would I do with a million Jews?". The coming re-birth of Israel and the irritaion of Arabs and the Muslim pressure from India, was a factor there. Some weeks later the Irgun assasinated him for that.

Read the books for Chapter and verse.

Martin Sugarman

 

Message 17 - Thought provoking

Posted on: 24 August 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Odyssee (Josephine) says "If they knew about gassing of the Jews-and I read about that too-They are just as guilty as the perpetrators : For convenience sake they closed their eyes."

This is the danger of this sort of polemic, from a few facts you jump to the conclusion (They are just as guilty as the perpetrators) that the Allies were equally culpable as the Nazis. I know you do not intend it Josephine, but that is highly insulting to all who opposed the Nazi evil and their racial madness. The argument is whether the Alies could or should have bombed the rail links to the extermination camps - not, I hope, whether the Allies were just as evil as the Nazis.

Of the hundreds of concentration camps run by the Nazis, six qualify as extermination camps, namely: Auschwitz/Birkenau, Belzec, Chelmno/Kulmhof, Majdanek/Lublin, Sobibór, and Treblinka. Many others, such as Buchenwald, Bergen-Belsen, and Dachau, were death-camps but not industrialised extermination sites.

All the extermination camps were deep in Poland, well out of range of English airfields. Belzec, for example, was 100 miles southeast of Warsaw, between Zamosc and Lvov; Chelmo/Kulmhof was 45 miles west of Lodz. The difficulty of reaching Warsaw was amply demonstrated during the Warsaw Uprising of 1944.

Apart from the logistical difficulties, would the bombing of railway lines have had any lasting effect? I doubt it, in France the intense bombing of the rail network before the invasion had to be repeated again and again. Much is made of the sucess in bombing the dams with the famous bouncing-bomb. It was a great feat of arms and tremendous damage was done, yet few people know that with 7,000 slave labourers the Germans had it all repaired by 23 September 1943; a great deal was repaired within days.

Peter

 

Message 18 - Thought provoking

Posted on: 24 August 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Martin

I had must have been typing the above message just as you posted, as a consequence I did not see it until mine appeared.

I think you attribute an accuracy to bombing that simply didn't exist throughout WW2. We read stories of the Americans being able to drop a bomb down the chimney of a factory with pin-point accuracy, but these are wild exagerations. Only carpet-bombing of a small complex such as a crematorium might have had a chance of hitting it and the chances of hitting a single rail track were minimal.

For example, in the raid on the IG Farben factory at Birkenau on 13 September 1944 by the American 464th Bombardment Group (Sortie No. 464BG/4M97), although the factory was hit, some of the bombs missed it and by a lucky chance hit the Birkenau gas chamber. But that had no lasting effect.

Go here www.yad-vashem.org.ilAbout links and click on the photo for an enlargement.

Regards,

Peter

 

Message 19 - Thought provoking

Posted on: 24 August 2004 by rose-of-java

Dear Martin Sugarman
Thank you, I will try and get hold of the books you recommend. I read Peter's last comment before replying to your letter and can only think that it is impossible for a layperson like me to form any valid conclusion.
My heart says much more could have been done, because that is what I would have liked to have happened. Years ago I read "Het boek van de kampen" (The book of the camps, I don't know if this was a translation, or whether it has appeared in English) It was quite large, heart-
breakingly thorough. Once I had started I had to read on through the night and the next day and so on until I had finished. Any action that could have stopped the sins against humanity committed in these camps would have been worthwhile.
But on the other hand, we have seen that the "smart bombs" in the 1st Gulf War were not always that smart, and there are decades of technological improvement in between.

The people who might have acted, yet did not, what will they have felt when the full horror of the holocaust became clear? I should not like to have that on my conscience.

Thank you for your answer, it must still be a difficult subject for you.
Rose.

 

Message 20 - Thought provoking

Posted on: 24 August 2004 by rose-of-java

Dear Peter
You look back at the war from a vantage point of a vast amount of superior knowledge. I should very much like to know if you were a participant and if so how on earth you managed to acquire such a balanced and dispassionate view. When writing about the war I have to try very hard to keep an excess of emotion under control, because I still feel I landed at the bottom of the hill, just out of the path of the juggernaut and even in retrospect this is scary. I imagine this goes for Josephine, too.

May I ask you another question? If it is too much, please say so. You make it very tempting to go on asking.

In one of my earlier letters I referred to a comment made by Laurens van der Post, possibly in "The Seed and the Sower", that he had seen documents which made it quite clear that the Japanese were planning to kill the women and children interned on Java. He mentions somewhere that he had learned the Japanese language. In the survey about the POW camps on the islands of Flores the authors called his novella "A Bar of Shadow" slightly romanticized. So I do not know what to believe.
Is there any truth in the story?
Thank you for taking so much time! Rose.

 

Message 21 - Thought provoking

Posted on: 24 August 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Hi Rose

If you wish to know about any member, the first port of call is their Personal Page, accessed by clicking on their user name. Mine is here U521078. Mine is a complex story and I have given an outline here A1993403. Since I joined this site lots more memories have come flooding back and were I to submit my story now it would be much expanded. Regarding my photo at A1993403, that was taken after the war - I joined the army in 1948.

The Axis were a mixed crew, weren't they: Japanese militarists, Nazi racists, and Italian Fascists. The Japanese took militarism to the nth degree with a ruthless military code. It always reminds me of the military code of Rebublican Rome or the early Roman Empire, where a soldier, and especially a general, was expected to fall on his sword without question if defeated. This gave rise in the Japanese to an utter contempt for any opposing soldier who surrendered, they simply did not understand it. The Japanese were capable of both occasional kindness and great cruelty towards a defeated population. Strangely, although such supreme militarism has no place in a civilised world, I can understand the Japanese more than I can the insanity of Nazi racial theory. I doubt if they had any plans to kill women and children, but they would have been totally indifferent to their fate.

Regards,

Peter

 

Message 22 - Thought provoking

Posted on: 24 August 2004 by anak-bandung

24/8 Roos, although I have no proof that the Japs were planning to kill us outright, they certainly did a good job by slowly starving us to death. My mother told me that she had heard in the camp Kampong Makassar (how true this was I don't know)that they were planning to ship certain young women and female children to Japan to groom them to be geishas and I presume not for one of the elite ones either but most likely bound to amuse the lower class Japanese(although one Jap would have been the same as another!).
Though the Hiroshima and the Nagasaki bombings were horrific, they certainly saved our lives and prevented possibly me ending up a geisha (perish the thought!).
When Hirohito died some years ago I was hugged by the senior partner of the GP practice I worked, who said: 'Congratulations girl, the b*****d is dead!' I felt rather taken aback and touched by his sentiment.
I have been reading with interest the posts by yourself, Peter and Mr Sugarman and although I am not qualified to comment I wholeheartedly agree with what is said. However, though the bombings may not have been accurate, even a few days, surely, would have meant some chance of survival to some people. What infuriates me that politicians always seem to know 'better'. A lot of the so-called leaders could be quite arrogant at times. Neither, I am sure, did Josephine mean that the Allies were as evil as the Nazis, but by not acting while they knew what was going on they condoned what was happening. Slightly going of course, what about all those Poles (or were they Rusians?) who were sent back despite their protest that they were killed? I think that was Bomber Harris, a great man in many respects, but still with some blood on his hands!
Anak

 

Message 23 - Thought provoking

Posted on: 24 August 2004 by ODYSSEY

Aug. 24Peter,Of course I did not mean :"The Allies" were en masse just as guilty.One cannot generalize(The Germans after the war rejected collective guilt )but we SAW the enthousiasm with wich the people loved Hitler and showed their allegiance : "wir haben es nicht gewüst" was their excuse." .But the Allied in charge who decided the course of action, for whatever reason,that caused millions more victim, share in that guilt.I wonder whether we will ever know what caused this decision that killed untold more Jews, gypsies, slave laborers. Teen agers in the city where my family lived were picked up
never to be heard of again Students I knew disappeard. Holland had concentration camps where several nurses were sent to and one of our class perished. Was this known in the Hi command of the Allies?Of course not. But it made people bitter and coloured their reactions and I am sure still do.
Read what Rose's reaction is Peter.We are all human .
If I hurt your feelings I apologise, It is the last thing I want to do.Josephine.

 

Message 24 - Thought provoking

Posted on: 24 August 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Dear Anak

I disagree that the Allies 'condoned' what the Nazis did, far from it, what do you think the Nuremberg Trials were all about? Far too few were brought to justice later, but that is entirely a diffent matter. If you want all the facts on that scandal do read "Blind Eye to Murder - Britain, America and the Purging of Nazi Germany - A Pledge Betrayed" by Tom Bower (Little, Brown & Co., 1981, new expanded edition 1995). It made me seethe with anger at the missed opportunities, the collusion, and the stupidity in dealing with some of the worst Nazi criminals. Not an edifying tale.

As for 'Bomber' Harris, even his nickname 'Bomber' is now misunderstood. It was a term of affection for him used in Bomber Command. No, I most certainly do not think that he has 'blood dripping from his hands', he fought a very hard campaign and was instrumental in the defeat of Germany.

Regards,

Peter

 

Message 25 - Thought provoking

Posted on: 24 August 2004 by ODYSSEY

24 Aug, Anak, I was rather taken aback by Peter's reaction.Thanks for trying to explain to him the" Why."I heard also that the women in the camps were to be shipped to Japan.Later we heard that Hitler's barber knew that the whole poulation of Holland was to be shipped to Polen as we were such Arian looking people.
People's inhumanity knows no bounds apparently.
I'm curious as how this "war of words"is going to end.I do hope that this is not the beginning of a split in our relation ships as this could be a cause for grudge.
And "our " does not mean between you,Roos and me.
.Odyssee,alias T-2

 

Message 26 - Thought provoking

Posted on: 24 August 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Dear Anak and Josephine

Oh dear! First I am not in the least hurt, neither of you has hurt my feelings. It just does not occur to me that feelings come into it when discussing history. Nor did I realise that this was 'a war of words'!

The problem with emails and internet postings is that the tone of voice is absent as are qualifying gestures when speaking face to face, or tone on a phone. It is for that reason that 'smilies' were devised. I have absolutely no wish to hurt anybody's feelings and I am sorry if somehow I have managed to give you that impression. <doh>

I have a very deep love of history covering the last 6,000 years and I do tend, inadvertently, to compare eras and civilizations and perhaps go off at a tangent. I sometimes forget that not everyone shares my detailed interest and I do apologise if I seem to dwell on things or seemingly clash with your own interpretation of events. I must come over really badly if I have managed to upset you both and I do apologise.

Kindest regards to you both,

Peter <cheerup>

 

Message 27 - Thought provoking

Posted on: 25 August 2004 by anak-bandung

25/8 Dear Peter. Gosh, a lot of feathers were flying there! Mine aren't ruffled a bit though :-) See, I am smiling, no hard feelings at all. You are so right that the absence of body language takes away a lot of meaning. When I worked at a GP practice and answered the phone, we were told to smile, despite feeling frustrated or angry <steam>. The voice, even through gritted teeth <grr> but with a smile on the face :-) (false it may have been) comes over much friendlier - as the French put it so well: 'c'est la ton qui fait la musique!'
You are the historicus, I am only someone who is very interested in all this and have read quite a lot, but probably may have had the wrong end of the stick OR the wrong information. I will try and get hold of the book you recommended. I did read somewhere though, that Harris had had a hand in sending those POWs back and quite a few perished because of that. I certainly did not mean he had blood 'dripping' from his hands. But perhaps, c'est la guerre. Lots of atrocities are happening on the 'good' side as well. Despite good leadership an army will have pockets of dark happenings. Look at Mei Ling in the Vietnam war. Also sometimes people have to be sacrificed for the good of the majority, but that still does not make it right.
Your passion for history does come out in the way you write. It is a pleasure to read what you have contributed.
Don't hesitate to set us right where we may go wrong, perhaps because of our own frustrations or deep emotions and we will agree to disagree sometimes.
<peacedove> regards, Anak @->--

 

Message 28 - Thought provoking

Posted on: 25 August 2004 by rose-of-java

25/8
Dear Josephine,
Dear Anak-Bandung,
Dear Peter,

Well, I am glad that this has sorted itself out, while I was absent for a while.

I had absented myself to act on Peter's suggestion to read his life's story on his personal page. (Thanks for the idea, I had completely forgotten one can do that).

You know, I always thought that I had led an eventful and adventurous life, but in comparison it is downright sedentary.

Peter, only yesterday I was bragging to Anak that when reading for my exams I could read 5 books a day
(Shakespeare plays and all) but that was then. In other words, I have not finished your story.

So - if you will all promise to behave - I shall return to an enthralling tale.
Rose-of-Java

 

Message 29 - Thought provoking

Posted on: 25 August 2004 by rose-of-java

Dear Peter

There was a time when I lumped all fascists together. Using the simple
"Animal Farm" formula '2 legs bad, 4 legs good': a fascist was a fascist. The shirt colour might differ, but that was all. For the last few weeks, however, I have been reading "In Europe" by Geert Mak, a Dutch historian who is very popular at the moment, and rightly so. He stresses that the situation in Italy was very complicated and that the Italians were not nearly as evil as the Germans. (A distinct relief: I love Florence more than any other city; yet there was always this shadow)

Your story has now put a person in the centre of that theoretical difference and while I felt I had to adjust old prejudices all the time, I marvelled at the adaptability you showed. People are amazingly good at that when they have to, aren't they.
The Japs used to force us to move house every few weeks, just to unsettle us. After a while I felt: give me 3 walls and I'll make us a home.

Your objectivity becomes much clearer now. Having lived through all that, and absorbed so much about other cultures you are bound to view the world from a hill-top.

Nevertheless I don't think I will ever share your admiration for the Japanese. Not hating their guts anymore is one thing, admiration, no!

From your description there must be similarities between their culture and the Anglo-Saxon attitude to war. It was unthinkable for a man to live on if his king had been killed in battle. Fighting and dying well were all-important to them.

I feel more at home at the gentler Arthurian courts, where the weak were defended and protected.

You say that writing has brought back more memories. I can only hope that you are going to use all the material and write a book!
Thank you, this was a wonderful experience Rose-of-Java

 

Message 30 - Thought provoking

Posted on: 25 August 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Rose-of-Java

Do not for a single moment think that Italian Fascists were good, far far from it. They were totally anti-democratic, authoritarian, and utterly ruthless. They were not, however, racists, apart from the odd one like Roberto Farinacci who was fascinated by the Nazi regime and swallowed hook line and sinker all the Aryan nonsense. It made him nastier than he originally was. The Partisans dealt with him swiftly at Dongo in May 1945.

Fascism is not Nazism, it was Stalin who wrongly equated the two in the 1930s. Mosley in England was at heart a racial Nazi, though he styled himself a fascist. In the initial Italian Fascist movement of 1919 many Italian Jews were Fascists, same as many Russian Jews were Bolsheviks in 1917. And why not? Jews are just ordinary people, good, bad, and indifferent, who just happen to have a different religion.

Best wishes @->--

Peter

 

Message 31 - Thought provoking

Posted on: 25 August 2004 by rose-of-java

Hi Peter
No, I don't think that at all.
There is quite a distance to be covered between "not nearly as evil" on the one side, and "good" on the other side.
Reading G. Mak, it struck me that it was quite fashionable to be 'anti-democratic' all over Europe before WWII.
Until the next conversation: greetings! Rose-of-Java

 

Message 32 - Thought provoking

Posted on: 19 November 2004 by martinsugarman

Peter

What you say is not so! The Jewish Agency (interim Government in Palestine) , the World Jewish Congress, the free Jewish community leaders worldwide, etc, pleaded for the bombing of Auschwitz. The few escapers (eg Wexler and Vrba) had testified that anything to stop the gas chambers and railways working - would help. It did not happen for the reasons I gave and the excuses of bombing accuracy. Nobody asked foer accuracy! It is known that saturation bombing of areas around railways worked eg in France running up to D Day. The risk of casulaties to Nazi guards would also have meant the camps closing and inmates being moved - anything to stop the factory/systematic slaugher and disrupt it, playing for time - the Russians were there by Jan 31st 1945.

Read the books. It did not happen. This was part of the message of the Moyne assasination.

Martin

 

Message 33 - Thought provoking

Posted on: 19 November 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Dear Martin

You ask me to 'read the books', I have read many - but one can go beyond books.

In book one of "Triumph and Tragedy", volume VI of Churchill's "The Second World War", buried amongst the documents you will find the minute that Churchill sent to Eden on 11 July 1944:

"There is no doubt that this is probably the greatest and most horrible crime ever committed in the whole history of the world, and it has been done by scientific machinery by nominally civilised men in the name of a great State and one of the leading races of Europe. It is quite clear that all concerned in this crime who may fall into our hands, including the people who only obeyed orders by carrying out the butcheries, should be put to death after their association with the murders has been proved."

It is a pity that this minute is relegated to the appendix, for nothing is said in the text. But there is another minute which Churchill did not print. But even prime ministers in a democracy are not omnipotent dictators. As David Reynolds now reveals, on pleas by the Jewish Agency to bomb the rail lines to Auschwitz and the gas chambers, Churchill told Eden on 7 July 1944:

"You and I are in entire agreement. Get anything out of the Air Force you can and invoke me if necessary."

And on the next day, in response to Eden's proposal for a public Allied protest, he minutes: "I am entirely in accord with making the biggest outcry possible."

The Joint Chiefs of Staff, and in particular Air Chief Marshal Portal and Air Vice Marshal Harris felt that this would divert valuable resources and that the bombing of German cities would shorten the war and bring and end to Auschwitz more swiftly.

We now look at these events with clear 20/20 hindsight and I have no doubt that we would do things differently. These men were faced with terrible decisions on a day-to-day basis.

There is not a single day of my life goes by when I do not think of the Holocaust. Since I have here spoken of Churchill's "The Second World War", let me use it as an example. It is a massive work in six volumes: 1,631,000 words of text and a further 278,000 words in the appendices, giving a total of 1,909,000 words - a little under two million. This is barely a third of the number of Jews who perished in the Holocaust. Every time I open any book I think of this. In any 1,000 page voulme, not even the letters, never mind the words, come anywhere near the number slaughtered.

Peter

 

Message 34 - Thought provoking

Posted on: 29 November 2004 by rose-of-java

29/11 Dear Peter
My pc was down for more than a week and I had not noticed that the two of you had taken up the discussion again.
One of the books you suggested, Martin Gilbert's "Auschwitz and the Allies" has finally arrived. (The others could no longer be ordered)
I am finishing a survey of European history in the previous century; this was a gift and I should read it first. But I have already taken a look at the Auschwitz book. As you suggested: it will not be uplifting.
Your comment on the Churchill texts is interesting. It reminded me of Shostakovich who composed 15 symphonies for the 15 million Stalin-victims, one for each million.
And it also reminded me of one of my students, a young Jewish girl, for whom WW2 was not a thing of the past and never will be. She was born years later, but for her the war was yesterday. As it is for me: yesterday, today, tomorrow. I think it is right and fitting that we should keep a space in our hearts to mourn the dead.
Rose.

 

Message 35 - Thought provoking

Posted on: 30 November 2004 by rose-of-java

30/11

Dear Martinsugarman,

Reluctantly, hesitantly, I should like to ask you something. I hesitate because it is not really my business, and yet I feel I should.
There is a great deal of suppressed anger in your message to Peter. Do you think it should be directed at him?
I read once that in one of the exterminationcamps a group of people put God on trial. "Where were you, God, when..? And where are you, God, now that ..?"

Even if this story is not true, it is emblematic of the fury springing from despair that one could feel in situations like that.
I feel the same fury when I think of my father being murdered by the Japs. Fury and outrage and a sense of injustice. And this is a flame that still burns steadily.
No action will ever seem sufficient when you have been in one of the camps or have lost relatives and friends. Whatever the Allies did, will always seem too little, too late.

And yet, from the other side the Allies might argue, "We did come to the rescue, at no little cost to ourselves. And there was a war to be fought on many fronts and in many continents."

Gratitude is a moralistic word, but I think we should be grateful that people who were not themselves directly involved will take the trouble to acquaint themselves with our pasts. And doubly so, when they do this with the thoroughness and intensity that people like Peter show.

Or, in other words, don't shoot the messenger.
Once more, my apologies for sticking my nose in. Yours
Rose

 

Message 36 - Thought provoking

Posted on: 27 January 2005 by h m coughlan

Rose of java
Anak-bandung

May I comment on three points in the discussion.
'Bomber' Harris had nothing to do with the return of Russian prisoners after the war - it was decided to be politically necessary under prior agreements with the Russians.
I think the idea that Arthurian England was an ideal time in AngloSaxon history is pure myth - a Victorian invention.
I do not think that Shostakovich planned or wrote 15 symphonies for the fallen in Russia. In any case the death toll was more of the order of 20 million.

Michael

 

Message 37 - Thought provoking

Posted on: 27 January 2005 by anak-bandung

Hi Michael
as for Bomber Harris not having a hand in returning the Russian prisoners, I may well have been misinformed. Thank you for putting me right. However, to return prisoners, who begged to stay as they believed they would otherwise be killed in their own country, for purely political reasons, does not make it right! I may be politically naive and admit this fully, but I can' help feeling this is utterly wrong.
anak-bandung

 

Message 38 - Thought provoking

Posted on: 28 January 2005 by rose-of-java

28/1 Dear Michael
How do we know things?
I experience pain near a collarbone, and mention this to my oncologist. Several CT scans and consultations later I am told I have secondary cancer and only one year to live. Soon after, the diagnosis and prognosis are changed. This was two years ago.
I knew I was in pain: I felt it. I was told I had cancer again. I also read about the subject.
Three different sources of information.
Three different starting points for a whole host of misinformation, misunderstanding. Or perhaps more knowledge.

You challenged my statement about the Arthurian courts. All I said was "gentler"
How do we know? We read about it, in Geoffrey of Monmouth, who was always described to us as 'the greatest liar in history' We read the literature, which is of a later date and hopefully imagine that the lofty ideals of courtly love were perhaps budding before they were recognized.
And we don't need the Victorians as sources of information. All you have to do is read "Beowulf" first, and "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" second.
You challenged my statement about Shostakovich's 15 symphonies. I read it somewhere, in his own words. Or purported to be his own words.
When you love his music as deeply as I do, it makes sense.
And sure, there were more than 15 million Russians killed. Did you watch the ceremony in Auschwitz? Mr Putin himself told us how many there were and that they all died fighting the Nazis.....

How do we acquire knowledge?
Experience. Hearsay. Reading.
How accurate is our knowledge?
How accurate are the absolutely firm scientific beliefs?
How accurate are our moral beliefs?
I am going to leave this open.
Yours. Rose of Java

PS I discoved, once again, how easy it is to make mistakes. For a while now I have been reading Martin Gilbert's "Auschwitz and the Allies" I was convinced Peter had mentioned this book in earlier postings. In fact, it was martinsugarman, as I saw when I glanced through previous messages. I am still grateful to him for the suggestion.

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